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Russia calls on Israel to stop ‘arbitrary’ Syria airstrikes

Russia’s foreign ministry on Wednesday, January 23 called for an end to Israeli airstrikes in Syria, saying they were “arbitrary” and must be “ruled out.”

“The practice of arbitrarily applying force strikes on the territory of a sovereign state – in this case we are talking about Syria – should be ruled out,” Russia’s TASS news agency reported foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova as saying in response to a question about recent Israeli strikes.

“In our opinion, forcing an atmosphere of hostility in the region does not meet the long-term national interests of any of the Middle Eastern states, including, of course, Israel.”

“We should prevent turning Syria, which has suffered over the past years of the armed conflict, into an arena of settling geopolitical scores,” she added.

Russia, the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, has generally refrained from public comment on Israeli aerial operations in Syria. In September, a Russian Il-20 electronic signals aircraft was accidentally shot down by Syrian anti-aircraft fire that was attempting to block Israeli missiles.

In response, Russia said it would deploy the S-300 missile defense system in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on January 13 that Israel had targeted Iranian and Hezbollah targets inside Syria “hundreds” of times. He said Israel was ready to increase its targeting to prevent Iran from entrenching itself in Syria.

Iran is Israel’s main foe in the region and Tel Aviv considers a persistent Iranian presence in Syria to be an existential threat.

Previously, Israel rarely commented on strikes it carries out in Syria, and the IDF initially refused to acknowledge the strike that took down the Russian Il-20. In a later statement, the military said it regretted the deaths of the Russian crew, and placed full responsibility for the incident on Assad’s government, with “Iran and Hezbollah as partners in this unfortunate event.”

Most recently, the Israeli Defense Forces announced it struck Iranian targets near Damascus on Monday after missiles were fired at the Golan Heights.

The IDF said its fighter jets targeted munition storages sites, a military site at Damascus international airport, an intelligence site and training camp belonging to the Quds force, the elite expeditionary unit within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps that has been active in Syria for most of the civil war.

Syria launched surface-to-air missiles during the strike, prompting the IDF to target the Syrian armed forces’ air defense batteries, the military said.

Four Syrian soldiers were killed and six injured in the strikes at Damascus airport, Russia’s RIA news agency reported, while Syria’s state news agency SANA claimed the military’s air defenses had “confronted an Israeli attack that targeted the Syrian territories and prevented it from achieving its objectives.”

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